Category: Research

KIP Faculty Featured at MTU-MSU Symposium on Michigan Tech’s Campus

On Friday, October 27, 2023, Dr. Steve Elmer, Dr. William Cooke, and Dr. Jenny Shan from the KIP department presented at the Engineering The Future of Human Health II: Collaborative Research Symposium held on the MTU campus in the Memorial Union Building. This is the second symposium being held in conjunction with Michigan State University. The inaugural symposium was held at MSU in March of 2022. Michigan Tech hosted this symposium with Dr. Cooke as a co-sponsor. “This is an important collaborative opportunity,” he commented.

Dr. Elmer and Dr. Cooke presented in the “Kinesiology and Physiology” session, and Dr. Shan presented in the “Metabolic Disease” session. Dr. Cooke also served as a moderator for the “Neural Control and Disease” session.

The symposium made the local TV6 news. More information and highlights about the event can be found on the station’s website.

Dr. Steve Elmer’s presentation, “Beyond the Weight Room: The Importance of Exercise in Health and Disease”
Dr. William Cooke’s presentation, “Inspiratory Resistance and Hemorrhage Control”
Dr. Jenny Shan’s presentation, “Exploring the Involvement of Extracellular Vesicles in Regulating Blood Pressure”

KIP Students Stay Active During Summer Break Presenting at National ACSM Annual Meeting

Isaac Lennox presents his research on the impact of “Exercise is Medicine-On Campus” at ACSM.
Kyle Wehmanen talks during a group session about his analysis of long-distance winter ultra-endurance racing.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting took place May 30-June 2, 2023 in Denver, Colorado.

In attendance were two KIP graduate students, Isaac Lennox (MS) and Kyle Wehmanen (PhD), along with recent PhD graduate Isaac Wedig. All three attendees were proud to present their recent research at the ACSM conference.

Isaac Lennox presented a poster from his master’s research focusing on the nationwide impact of the “Exercise is Medicine-On Campus” (EIM-OC) initiative. EIM-OC is a program run by the ACSM that promotes physical activity on college campuses and is a pillar of their continuing community outreach. Isaac L.’s work was very well received and garnered excitement and interest from other EIM-OC colleagues across the country.

Isaac Wedig gave a short, rapid-fire oral presentation on a portion of his doctoral research. He outlined his work with blood flow restriction (BFR) and exercise. Specifically, Isaac W. has built tools designed to help bridge the gap with BFR between research and practical usage in a clinical setting.

Finally, Kyle Wehmanen delivered a 10-minute talk as part of a group session on endurance athletes and events. He spoke about his ongoing analysis of long-distance winter ultra-endurance racing, including the 1000-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational which traverses the same course as the legendary dog-sled race.

Overall, the Michigan Tech crew had a fantastic showing at the 2023 ACSM Annual Meeting and are already looking forward to next year! — Written by Kyle Wehmanen, PhD student

KIP Students Present at 2023 American Physiology Summit

Students and faculty from the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology (KIP) recently attended the 2023 American Physiology Summit in Long Beach, CA on April 20–23, 2023. PhD students Greg Miodonski, Sherry Chen, Kyle Wehmanen, and Isaac Wedig presented posters to their colleagues at the annual event.

Greg, a member of Dr. Qinghui Chen’s lab, did a poster presentation of his research project entitled “Exercise Augments Small Conductance Ca2+ -Activated Potassium Channel (SK) Function in the PVN of Sprague Dawley Rats to Reduce Sympathetic Outflow.” His poster was selected as “top 10% scoring abstracts” sponsored by APS Central Nervous Session (CNS). Read more about his research in his abstract below.

Congratulations to these students for a wonderful showing at the summit!

Greg Miodonski, Qinghui Chen, and Mingjun Gu at APS
Top row from left to right: Qinghui Chen (KIP faculty), Gregory Miodonski (KIP student); Ian Greenlund (KIP alum); Jeremy Bigalke (KIP alum), Robert Larson (BioSci faculty); John Durocher (former KIP faculty)
Bottom row from left to right: Mingjun Gu (KIP researcher), Sherry Chen (KIP student), Jennifer Nicevski (KIP alum), Jenny Shan (KIP faculty)

Greg’s Abstract:

“Exercise Augments Small Conductance Ca2+ -Activated Potassium Channel (SK) Function in the PVN of Sprague Dawley Rats to Reduce Sympathetic Outflow”

Gregory Miodonski, Jessica Bruning, Derrick Simet, Haley Ruiter, Christian Johnson, Mingjun Gu, Zhiying Shan, Qing-Hui Chen

Elevated sympathetic outflow is a key feature of cardiovascular disease (CVD) that worsens disease progression. Our lab has shown that SK channels expressed in the PVN play a crucial role in regulating neuronal activity and sympathetic outflow, and that SK channels become dysfunctional in rats fed a high salt diet. Exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for reducing sympathoexcitation in CVD including hypertension and heart failure, but the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. We hypothesized that aerobic exercise would upregulate SK channel function in the PVN to reduce sympathetic nerve activity (SNA). To test this, 5–6 week old Sprague Dawley rats were randomly divided into sedentary (SED) and exercise (EXT) two groups and fed a 0.4% NaCl normal salt diet. Following acclimation, EXT groups ran on a motorized treadmill 5 days/week for 8-10 weeks. Conscious blood pressure was measured weekly via tail plethysmography. After 8-10 weeks, animals were anesthetized and underwent in vivo surgery to record the renal sympathetic nerve activity (RSNA) and mean arterial pressure (MAP) following PVN microinjection of the SK blocker, apamin (0.25mM, 60nL/side). The data showed that the RSNA response to PVN apamin was significantly enhanced in EXT rats compared with SED rats (320.8 ± 174.6 % baseline, n=9 vs 184.8 ± 143.1 % baseline, n=9; p = 0.02).  The corresponding ABP response to apamin was not significantly different in EXT rats compared with SED rats (20.40 ± 9.98 mmHg, n=9 vs 25.27 ± 9.97 mmHg, n=8; p = 0.1658). Our data indicates exercise enhances PVN SK channel function to reduce sympathetic outflow. This improvement of SK channel function may be one mechanism by which exercise reduces SNA in CVD including hypertension and heart failure. Support: 1R15HL145655 (Chen); 1R15 HL150703 (Shan); MTU Health Research Institute (HRI).

Greg Miodonski, PhD student
Kyle Wehmanen, PhD student, presented his project entitled “Teaching K-12 Students Using Jenga: The Impact of Health Behaviors on Community Health, Wellbeing, and Resilience.”
Not pictured, PhD student Isaac Wedig presented his research project entitled “”Predictors of Arterial Occlusion Pressure in the Lower-Body Across Commonly Used Cuff Widths.”
PhD student Sherry Chen’s research project is entitled “Brain-Derived Small Extracellular Vesicles from Dahl Salt-Sensitive Rats with High Salt Diet Induce Inflammation and Oxidative Stress.”
Sherry Chen with Dr. Jenny Shan

Call for Applications: 2023 Songer Research Award for Human Health

Undergraduate and graduate students in the Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology Department are encouraged to apply for the 2023 Songer Research Award for Human Health. Matthew Songer, (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) established these awards to stimulate and encourage opportunities for original research by current Michigan Tech students.

Students may propose an innovative medically-oriented research project in any area of human health. The best projects will demonstrate the potential to have a broad impact on improving human life. This research will be pursued in consultation with faculty members within the College of Sciences and Arts. The Songers’ gift and matching funds from the College will support two awards for undergraduate research ($4,000) and two for graduate research ($6,000), for research conducted over the Summer of 2023 and/or the following academic year.

Learn more about who is eligible to apply, how to apply, and how the funds may be used.

Submit applications as a single PDF file to the Office of the College of Sciences and Arts by 4:00 p.m. Monday, April 24, 2023. Applications may be emailed to Any questions may be directed to David Hemmer (

PhD Student Receives Award at the 2023 National Safe Patient Handling and Mobility Education Event

Ashley Hawke, PhD student

PhD student Ashley Hawke received the Gallagher Award at the 2023 National Safe Patient Handling and Mobility Education Event that took place in Glendale, AZ from March 20-23, 2023. This national event is hosted by the Association of Safe Patient Handling Professionals.

The award Ashley received is for her project proposal entitled “Effectiveness of Patient Handling Interventions on Reducing Musculoskeletal Disorder Risk in Healthcare Workers: A Study Proposal.” Below is her project’s abstract to learn more about Ashley’s work.

Background: Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are extremely prevalent among healthcare workers, especially those who perform patient handling tasks. Previous research has found that sustained static and/or awkward working postures, frequent bending, repetitive and/or forceful work, and twisting were commonly associated with MSDs. The use of mechanical assistive devices reduces risks of MSDs during patient handling; however, availability and accessibility of equipment are common barriers to using these devices in clinical settings. Portable passive interventions, such as transfer slings, slider sheets, and exoskeletons have been proposed to assist with patient handling tasks as an alternative to mechanical assistive devices, but the effectiveness of these interventions in reducing MSD risk in healthcare workers is inconclusive. METHODS: In the proposed study, we will evaluate three passive patient handling interventions (transfer sling, slider sheet, and passive back-assist exoskeleton) in their ability to alter biomechanical and physiological responses associated with the development of MSDs when performing two standardized patient handling tasks: 1) turning a patient onto their side and 2) performing a sit to sit transfer. Twenty participants will be recruited to perform the tasks using an 80 kg mannequin in four different interventions: manual, using a transfer sling, using a slider sheet, and wearing a passive exoskeleton. Variables to be measured include muscle activity of the trunk, upper extremity, lower extremity muscles, shoulder/lumbar kinematics, kinetics, oxygen consumption, heart rate, energy expenditure, and rating of perceived exertion. FINDINGS: As this is a study proposal, no results are available at this time. CONCLUSIONS/IMPLICATIONS: Results from the proposed study will allow researchers to evaluate the biomechanical demands and physiological cost of each patient handling intervention and how together these may play a role in potentially reducing MSDs. Importantly, these findings may serve as a first step to developing more cost-effective and portable patient handling interventions.

KIP Alum Wins AJP 2023 Best Research Article Award

KIP alum Joshua Gonzalez (PhD, Integrative Physiology), who graduated in the summer of 2021, earned the “American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology 2023 Best Research Article Award” for his article titled “Acute Effects of Electronic Cigarettes on Arterial Pressure and Peripheral Sympathetic Activity in Young Nonsmokers.”

Dr. Joshua E. Gonzalez
Dr. William Cooke
Dr. Josh Gonzalez receiving his award at the American Physiology Summit. Also in the photo is AJP Editor-in-Chief Merry Lindsey and the winners of the best review article and best rapid report.

He wrote and published this article while still a PhD student at MTU along with his advisor and co-author Dr. William Cooke. 

The AJP-Heart and Circulatory 2023 Best Research Article Award is based on: 

  • The total number of citations the article has received since publication (11)
  • Total online article usage (4,100+)  
  • The Altmetric score of 17 (measure of social media/news media impact)

He will receive both an award and cash prize at the upcoming American Physiology Summit 2023  to be held April 20-23, 2023 in Long Beach, California.

American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulatory Physiology logo

“Engineering the Future of Human Health”: KIP featured at MSU-MTU Symposium

Dr. William Cooke (KIP), Dr. Carolyn Duncan (KIP), and Dr. Kevin Trewartha (CLS/KIP) were among 12 researchers from Michigan Tech who met with colleagues representing the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University on March 13, 2023. Hosted by MSU in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this was the inaugural event of the collaborative research symposium between the universities.

Dr. Duncan and Dr. Trewartha presented during the “Neurological Disease and Aging Research” session, while Dr. Cooke presented at the “Cardiovascular Research” session.

In the fall, Michigan Tech will host the second symposium with Dr. Cooke as a co-sponsor. “This is an important collaborative opportunity, and I look forward to being among those who will be organizing the next collaborative meeting on October 27th–beautiful time to be in the UP,” he remarked when asked about the future event.

The full story and complete list of MTU and MSU researchers who gave presentations can be found in Tech Today.

Dr. Carolyn Duncan presented on “Balance and Functional Mobility” at the MSU-MTU symposium.
Dr. Kevin Trewartha’s presentation was titled “Aging and Cognition: Implications for Motor Learning and Sensorimotor Motor Control in Older Populations.”

KIP PhD Student Awarded Michigan Space Grant Consortium Fellowship

Kyle Wehmanen, PhD Student

Kyle Wehmanen, a PhD student and graduate teaching assistant, has been awarded a $5,000 graduate fellowship by the Michigan Space Grant Consortium, which is sponsored by NASA, for its 2023-2024 cycle. His project is entitled “Human Powered Locomotion on Variable Terrain: Implications for how to Move on Mars.”

More details about the MSGC and the complete list of undergraduate, graduate, and faculty recipients can be found in the Tech Today announcement from the Graduate School.

KIP Graduate Students Earn Top Honors at HRI Student Forum

PhD student Greg Miodonski was awarded First Place for the poster session at the Health Research Institute’s (HRI) Student Forum on February 24th. Greg, a student in Dr. Qinghui Chen’s (KIP) lab, presented his research project entitled “Exercise Training Upregulates SK Channel Function in the Hypothalamic Paraventricular Nucleus (PVN) of Sprague Dawley Rats.”

Greg Miodonski with his advisor Dr. Qinghui Chen.
Greg presenting his poster to judges at the HRI Student Forum.

PhD candidate Sherry Chen earned Third Place for her research project’s poster presentation entitled “The Role of Peripheral Orexin Systems and Brain-Derived Extracellular Vesicles in Salt Sensitive Hypertension.” Sherry’s advisor is Dr. Zhiying (Jenny) Shan.

“As a graduate student, it is a valuable experience to present my work in the HRI student forum as it facilitates networking with faculty and students outside of my department. During my poster presentation, I had the chance to meet with three judges, including Dr. Caryn Heldt, who is also working on extracellular vesicles. Dr. Heldt asked me questions about the characterizations of nanoparticles in hypertension and showed interest in collaborating in the future. Although our research interests differ – my project focuses on the biological function of the vesicles while Dr. Heldt’s team analyzes their features – we can still explore potential areas of overlap and collaborate based on what we study in common, the vesicles. Thanks for this great opportunity provided by HRI as it provides a platform for networking, exchanging ideas, and potentially new opportunities for research. I am happy to present my work and share new data in HRI next year.” —Sherry Chen on presenting at the HRI Student Forum.

Sherry’s Abstract:

Introduction- It has been reported that small extracellular vesicles (sEVs ≤ 200 nm) are implicated in the pathogenesis of multiple diseases including hypertension. However, the role of brain-derived sEVs in the development of salt sensitive hypertension (SSHTN) remains unclear.

Hypothesis- We hypothesized that brain-derived sEVs from high salt diet-treated rats can induce inflammation and oxidative stress in the central nervous system (CNS). To test this hypothesis, brain-derived sEVs of Dahl salt-sensitive rats with high salt (HS) diet (Dahl-HS-sEV) were used to treat primary brain neuronal cultures and microinjected into brain lateral ventricles, respectively, proinflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and oxidative stress markers were measured through real-time PCR or fluorescent probes. sEVs isolated from Sprague Dawley (SD) rats with normal salt (NS) diet (SD-NS-sEV) were used as a control.

Results– Data showed that Dahl-HS-sEV increased mRNA levels of inflammatory cytokines including TNFα (2.3-fold) and IL1β (3.7-fold), and chemokines including CCL2 (2.4-fold), CCL5 (2.1-fold), and CCL12 (4.2-fold), with significant difference (P<0.05). In addition, Dahl-HS-sEV treatment increased mRNA levels of transcription regulator, NF-κB (1.4-fold), and neuronal activation marker, c-FOS (1.3-fold), as well as CYBA (1.7-fold), in primary neurons, compared to SD-NS-sEV-treated cells (P<0.05). Confocal images showed that Dahl-HS-sEV significantly increased mitochondrial ROS levels, with total fluorescence intensity increased 1.6-fold relative to SD-NS-sEV treatment (P<0.01). SD-NS rats receiving intracerebroventricular injection of Dahl-HS-sEV had increased (P<0.05) PVN mRNA levels of IL1β (4.3-fold), CCL5 (2.6-fold), IL-6 (3.4-fold) and NOS2 (5.2-fold), compared to rats receiving SD-NS-sEV (5.5 μg/rat, n=4), 6h after injection.

Conclusion- These results suggested that in SSHTN, brain-derived sEVs may induce central inflammation and oxidative stress, which in turn results in an elevation of arterial blood pressure.

For the complete list of winners and departments that were represented, please read the Tech Today story that was published on March 7, 2023.

December KIP Seminar

Join us for the last seminar of the semester to close out the “Women in Health Science, Medicine, and Physiology” series.

Dr. Carrie Karvonen-Gutierrez and Dr. Erica Twardzik will be presenting their research and work. To learn more about the speakers, find their abstracts and biographies below.

Dr. Karvonen-Gutierrez’s Abstract: Among older adults (age 65+ years), declines in physical functioning, increases in disability and the relationship of falls with adverse outcomes including hospitalizations and death are well documented. However, evidence suggests that the mid-life period (40-64 years of age) is a critical window for the onset of poor physical functioning and falls, particularly in women. Women experience greater disability, more rapid declines in physical functioning, and more falls than do age-matched men. This presentation will overview the burden of physical functioning limitations, disability and falls among mid-life women and identify important correlates of these health outcomes. Key findings from the ongoing Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, a prospective, multi-ethnic study of midlife women will be included to demonstrate important differences in the burden of physical functioning by key demographic measures.

Dr. Twardzik’s Abstract: Older adults with disabilities are a growing demographic group. People with disabilities represent 26.8% of the general population, and the prevalence of disability increases with age. People with disabilities, compared to non-disabled peers, are less likely to engage in physical activity and social participation, key components of healthy aging. Observed disparities are driven by a multifactorial set of environmental barriers and facilitators. This presentation will describe socio-environmental drivers of mobility among older adults and people with disabilities. Examples from recent work empirically testing relationships between built environment and mobility will be used to illustrate how environments shape mobility among people with disabilities. Environmental modification is needed to achieve societal inclusion and optimize individual participation among those aging with and into disability.